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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recalls John Madden ahead of Thanksgiving

The legacy of the late John Madden is woven into the fabric of Thanksgiving Day football and Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys plan to honor that on Thursday.
Credit: AP
FILE - Former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden gestures toward a bust of himself during his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 5, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

DALLAS — The only icon bigger than the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving may be John Madden.

The Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and legendary NFL color commentator, who passed away last December at age 85, broadcasted 21 Thanksgiving games alongside play-by-play Pat Summerall. The league will honor Madden in Week 12 with the "John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration."

According to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, while Madden may have been synonymous with pro football, he was also a savvy businessman.

"John was a great friend and after my first year, we went 1-15," Jones told "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 "The Fan" [KRLD-FM] on Tuesday. "A lot of people don’t realize what a financial guy John Madden was. He was one of the most successful business people in this country. And he was not just because of the Madden game, but the Madden game helped him out. But he had tremendous holdings all over the west in real estate. So, he was very keen to what I’d done when I bought the team. He knew what a mess this thing was financially, both the team and the league. So, he was very, very on page when we sat down and had our visits."

After one of Jones' first Thanksgiving games with Madden on site with the NFL on CBS crew, the owner, president, and general manager went over to Madden's hotel room at the Four Seasons in Dallas to ask about the potential the NFL had to offer.

"I said, ‘John, is this thing as big as I think it is? I know I’ve got it exaggerated, but, man, it’s big to be sitting here with the NFL and you and the Cowboys.’

"He said, ‘Jerry, this is presidential stuff. This is presidential.’ And, so, we had a great relationship, a lot of wonderful hours and time spent."

While Jones would have Madden at his home sometimes when he was working a Cowboys home game, other NFL owners also recognized the importance of having his input across the NFL's interests.

Said Jones: "He was so apt, not only at the game; understood the attractiveness of the game. He understood what was down in the dirt and he understood what was really basic about that and about needing to be that to be a football player. But he also understood the magic of how to describe it, and he understood the whole picture. He became an advisor, a key advisor, to the NFL later after he — while he was still commentating, but he became an advisor and he was just about caught up on advice on every committee we had in the NFL, whether it be television or it be competition. He really had a great idea and he had a great way to project it so that the rest of us could basically get some of that on us.”

Dallas hosts the New York Giants on Nov. 24 at AT&T Stadium. The last time the Cowboys hosted New York for Thanksgiving was 1992, and Dallas prevailed 30-3 at Texas Stadium with Madden calling the action.

What are your favorite Cowboys Thanksgiving memories? Share ‘em with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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